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More effective solutions? Senior managers and non-routine problem solving

Decreton, Benoit; Tippmann, Esther; Nell, Phillip C.; Parker, Andrew

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Benoit Decreton

Esther Tippmann

Phillip C. Nell


Research Summary Solving non-routine problems—problems for which current organizational, recurrent action patterns do not offer a predetermined, effective solution—can be an important source of value creation. When these problems occur in subsidiaries of multinational corporations, senior headquarters managers can potentially help solve them. However, whether their involvement is beneficial rests upon the assumptions that they know which knowledge is appropriate and that their involvement does not negatively influence the problem solving process. We challenge these assumptions and theorize that the involvement of senior headquarters managers is negatively related to solution effectiveness, unless senior subsidiary managers are also involved, and especially if problems have an external locus (i.e., primarily relate to the firm's products and services). Our robust results are consistent with our theory. Managerial Summary Companies are often faced with new problems, which represent an opportunity for organizational improvements. But how different types of senior managers influence problem solving effectiveness has remained unclear. Studying problems occurring in foreign subsidiaries of multinational corporations, we find that the involvement of senior headquarters managers is negatively related to problem solving effectiveness. Two reasons explain this result: senior headquarters managers often lack necessary understanding of their subsidiaries' contexts; and their involvement diminishes active participation of subsidiary employees. The negative relationship is especially strong when problems relate to products and services (as opposed to internal processes). Furthermore, we find that senior subsidiary managers can mitigate the negative consequences related to senior headquarters managers' involvement.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Feb 25, 2023
Online Publication Date Mar 1, 2023
Publication Date 2023
Deposit Date Feb 27, 2023
Publicly Available Date Apr 18, 2023
Journal Strategic Management Journal
Print ISSN 0143-2095
Electronic ISSN 1097-0266
Publisher Wiley
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Public URL


Published Journal Article (Advance online version) (6.9 Mb)

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Copyright Statement
Advance online version This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs License, which permits use and distribution in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, the use is non-commercial and no modifications or adaptations are made.

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